On Monday, as Floridians wondered what impact the massive oil spill in the Gulf would have on Florida, former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox called on all gubernatorial and cabinet office candidates in Florida to sign a pledge opposing any offshore oil drilling in state waters.
Maddox, the leading Democratic candidate running for commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, held a media event to unveil his pledge and reiterate his opposition to any offshore drilling.
I urge each candidate to sign this pledge, said Maddox.
Opposition to offshore drilling has been one of the centerpieces of the campaign, with Maddox replying, No, baby, no to calls of Drill, baby, drill. Maddox argues that offshore drilling poses a dire threat to Floridas environment as well as to its economy.
No state in the nation is as dependent on beaches for tourism as the state of Florida, said Maddox, who noted that the states tourist industry brings in $65 billion annually. Maddox maintained that offshore oil drilling also posed a threat to Florida agriculture.
Maddox sent a letter to President Barack Obama on April 12, urging the president to reconsider allowing drilling off of the Florida coast. Even though I am of the same party as the president, I vehemently disagree with him on this issue, Maddox said on Monday.
While taking shots at proposals in the Legislature supporting offshore drilling, Maddox reserved his heaviest fire for Congressman Adam Putnam, who is running for the Republican nomination for the agriculture and consumer services post.
I was struck by the fact that my opponent, Adam Putnam, as recently as a few days ago was himself unmoved by the growing tragedy and was shockingly not willing to take drilling off the table, said Maddox.
Putnam countered Maddoxs charges and blasted his Democratic opponent.
I am deeply concerned about the economic and ecological damage the oil spill is causing, said Putnam. Everyone from the president on down has correctly said we should have a thorough investigation of its causes and the lack of preparedness of the industry to respond to a disaster before proceeding with any new exploration.
Unlike my lobbyist opponent, I have been focused for the past decade on homegrown sources of energy in Florida from agriculture, and a hundred other
things relating to the job for which I am running, Putnam added. Maddox refuses to answer questions about the most basic issues facing agriculture and this position. Instead he uses this tragedy as to deflect his complete ignorance of the issues in this race and his own checkered past.
Democratic candidates for state offices backed Maddoxs pledge.
One of Maddoxs rivals for the Democratic nomination for agricultural commissioner offered his support for the measure.
I was the first statewide candidate to come out against offshore drilling, said former Suwannee County Commissioner Randy Hatch.
Hatch said that offshore drilling poses a threat to tourism and agriculture. He also noted that offshore drilling would soon be obsolete as technology advances.
Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, who is running for attorney general, quickly expressed his support for Maddoxs pledge.
"I was inalterably opposed to oil drilling well before this dreadful incident occurred and obviously remain so, said Gelber. As attorney general, my opposition to oil drilling will remain unchanged. I don't think we need to study it, I think we need to reject it outright and put the entire idea where it belongs: in our rearview mirror.
Staff members for Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, who is also running for attorney general, said that their candidate had not seen Maddoxs pledge yet but said Aronberg was a staunch opponent of offshore drilling.
State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the frontrunner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, backed Maddoxs pledge, calling for the elimination of all near-shore drilling and pulling the plug on any expansion of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
We must treat this like a Category 5 hurricane -- preparing our coastlines for the worst economic and environmental disaster imaginable and quickly ensuring that our businesses and citizens can get the help they will need, said Sink. This oil spill is the largest risk to Floridas economy in recent memory. The impact on state and local governments will be enormous, at a time when we can least afford it.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (904) 521-3722.